Steve Diamond admits his Sale Sharks side were pushed all the way but they maintained their unbeaten home record in Aviva Premiership Rugby this season by seeing off Exeter Chiefs.
After three first-half tries had helped Sale into a 17-0 lead at the break, another home win seemed a formality, but Exeter refused to buckle and eventually went down 23-17.
Johnny Leota, Nev Edwards and Mike Haley scored the three Sale tries, but the Chiefs responded in the second half through Jack Yeandle and Dave Lewis.
However after securing the win, Diamond was quick to praise the opponents on the day, and admits Sale will need to become more clinical against the top teams.
"I thought it was an equal contest, even though the scoreline didn't suggest it was,” he said.
"In the second half, they had 80 per cent possession and we defended well.
"Exeter are a top-four side on merit, so we were delighted to get the win. But we've got to understand that we should have been 25 points up at half-time so we've got to work on converting all the opportunities.
"We're a reasonable team, we know we're good at home and it will be a daunting task to go to Worcester next week.
"We're trying to play to the plan we do in training and we'll see where we are in another three months.
"There's a lot of rugby to play, as Newcastle proved last night, and if we start to think we're better than we are we'll slip into that relegation fight."
While it meant a second straight defeat for the Chiefs, Rob Baxter was impressed by the spirit shown from his team.
And the losing bonus point actually allows them to increase their lead over Leicester Tigers in third.
Baxter said: "We're disappointed to lose but at the same time you've got to give a lot of credit to Sale, who stood strong in front of a lot of concerted attacks and have worked extremely hard not to break.
"We worked extremely hard and I can't fault the lads for the energy they put out on the pitch because we've carried the ball for miles.
"Ultimately, we've come up a little bit short by being a little bit too error-strewn in the early part of the game, when we did have concerted pressure.
"Not scoring anything in that first half has cost us. We had to work extremely hard for our moments and ultimately that's why we've come up a little bit short."
Sale Sharks 23 Exeter Chiefs 17
Sale Sharks: Haley, Addison (Arscott 78), James, Leota, Cipriani, Stringer (Cusiter 62), Harrison (Lewis-Roberts 54), Taylor (Briggs 62), Cobilas (Mujati 54), Evans, Ostrikov (Mills 47), Neild, Seymour, Easter (Lund 65)
Replacements not used: Ford
Exeter Chiefs: Dollman, Woodburn, Whitten, S Hill, Short (Bodilly 62), Steenson, Chudley (Lewis 59), Moon (Hepburn 68), Yeandle (Cowan-Dickie 55), Low (Williams 69), J Hill (Atkins 55), Parling, Armand, Salvi (Horstmann 62), Waldrom
Replacements not used: Hooley
Tries: Leota, Edwards, Haley
Penalties: Cipriani 2
Tries: Yeandle, Lewis
Conversions: Steenson 2
Referee: Andrew Small